SEO vs PPC: Climbing The Digital Marketing Mountain

Would you consider SEO and PPC to be two of the most popular ways to acquire customers and drive traffic? Many would agree that you should use at least one of these methods if you plan on growing your website or social media. 

It’s also important that you understand the difference between the two. SEO focuses on organic traffic and site optimization whereas PPC requires you to pay for each click through to your site. 

In this guide, we’ll stack SEO vs PPC to see which is the better choice for getting your business running full steam. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and is one of the foundational forms of digital marketing. This strategy is employed by businesses and professionals across the globe with the goal of enhancing online visibility, increasing traffic, and ranking higher on search engine results pages. 

Search engine optimization includes a number of subcategories and techniques that aim to improve the quality and quantity of organic traffic to your website. 

In layman’s terms, content that follows basic SEO principles ranks you higher on Google so more people go to your website. Simple as that. 

Let’s delve into the various facets of SEO that form the bedrock of a successful digital marketing strategy.

On Page SEO

On-Page SEO revolves around optimizing the elements within your website to make it more appealing to search engines. This includes optimizing your website’s content, meta tags, images, and overall structure. 

Keyword optimization plays a pivotal role in on-page SEO, where you strategically place relevant keywords in your content and metadata. It’s imperative to maintain a fine balance between keyword usage and content quality to ensure that your website is not only search engine-friendly but also user-friendly.      keyword research in content

In the example above, I point out some elements that may be considered on-page SEO. Starting with the title, you have an opportunity to include a keyword and structure the title in a way that is appealing to search engines. 

Putting the keyword “inbound marketing vs content marketing” right away gives Google what it wants as soon as possible so it can learn what the article is about. 

Having a table of contents is an element that is good for both SEO and user experience. It gets more keywords into the article and it also helps users navigate the page and find the information they want which can reduce bounce rate. 

Making sure that you organize your content with header tags and short paragraphs is another aspect of on-page SEO. 

seo post

In this example the text is broken up with a lot of headers, it’s scannable, and this is another tip that makes people stick around longer on your page. 

Lastly, internal linking is a big part of on-page SEO. Having a good amount of internal links on every page helps connect your website and create a web that ensures Google understands that you’re an authority on whatever subject you cover. 

Using Link Whisper can help make the process easier by automatically suggesting internal links and anchor text so you don’t have to figure it out yourself. 

Off Page SEO

Off-Page SEO focuses on building your website’s authority and credibility in the eyes of search engines and users. It’s primarily concerned with activities outside your website that influence its ranking. Backlinks are a crucial aspect of off-page SEO. 

backlinks from link whisper

This snippet from Ahrefs shows how many backlinks and referring domains Link Whisper has. This means that almost 2,000 websites provide the site with over 27,000 links. 

Quality backlinks from reputable websites act as votes of confidence, indicating to search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy. When a site links to you, it passes PageRank through to your website which is considered a vote of confidence from that site to yours. 

Content marketing and social media engagement are also integral components of off-page SEO. 

Sharing high-quality content on various platforms not only helps in brand exposure but also encourages others to link back to your website. Social signals, such as likes, shares, and comments, can indirectly impact your website’s search engine rankings.

This is where you can think of SEO as an all encompassing means of building a brand and a successful business. You’re creating a real business that owns its audience and traffic. This is why I find SEO to be such a powerful long-term solution. 

Keyword Research

Keywords are at the core of everything we do in SEO. Keyword research involves identifying and analyzing the search terms and phrases that your target audience uses to find information online. Keyword research provides valuable insights into user intent and helps you create content that aligns with what your audience is searching for.

link whisper

If you Google the phrase “find internal links to a page” you’ll find Link Whisper as the number one search result. The main keyword of the article is “how to find internal links.”

So, this article breaks down exactly how to do that and as a result, it ranks number one. 

While of course the article provides valuable content and helps the reader, it’s important that we use keywords that people are searching so Google understands that the article addresses the query. This is how you make the connection. 

That said, effective keyword research goes beyond just choosing keywords that people are searching. You need to pay attention to volume, relevance, competition, and intent. 

For example, if someone searches for “Samsung refrigerators” you can assume that they’re looking to buy a fridge or for information on refrigerators because they want to buy one. 

A guide explaining how to fix a Samsung refrigerator wouldn’t fit in this situation. 

You have to match the intent of what the user is looking for. This is an ongoing process as trends evolve and you learn more and more about your audience. Keyword research is a very in-depth skill that requires experience and a lot of trial and error. 

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a central pillar of SEO. It involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and engage your target audience. 

Quality content not only satisfies user intent but also encourages backlinks and social shares, bolstering your website’s authority and visibility.

Content marketing encompasses a wide range of content types, including blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and more. 

The key is to understand your audience’s preferences and create content that resonates with them. It should provide solutions to their problems, answer their questions, or entertain them, depending on your niche and goals.

Think of SEO as the left brain and content marketing as the right brain . SEO is the engine that provides all the structure and necessary information for a blog post and content marketing is the process of actually putting the blog together, writing it, and creating quality content that people actually like to view.  

Technical SEO

Technical SEO is the behind-the-scenes components that make a website perform. You can have everything else we’ve talked about so far but if your website doesn’t work right, it doesn’t matter how good your content or keyword research is. 

It ensures that search engine crawlers can easily access and index your content. This involves optimizing factors like website speed, mobile-friendliness, and site architecture.

A critical element of technical SEO is optimizing for crawlability and indexability. This includes creating a logical site structure, optimizing robots.txt files, and using XML sitemaps to guide search engine bots. 

Additionally, schema markup can help search engines understand the content on your site better, leading to rich snippets and enhanced search results.

Technical SEO also addresses issues like duplicate content, broken links, and HTTPS security.

I won’t dive too far into all of this but it’s important to understand that SEO is very technical and you need to make sure your website works properly for everything to come together. 

What is PPC?

On the other side of the ring we have PPC or pay-per-click advertising. This is another fundamental form of digital marketing that allows you to target specific audiences and promote your products and services by paying your way to the top. 

Unlike organic search results, PPC allows advertisers to bid for ad placements on search engines and various online platforms. When a user clicks on the ad, you pay whatever you were willing to bid. 

The competition of the keyword you’re targeting will determine how much you have to pay. Let’s get into the specifics. 


PPC advertising revolves around the art of precise targeting. Advertisers can define their target audience based on various factors, including demographics, location, interests, behavior, and even device type. Targeting ensures that your ads are displayed to the right people at the right time, maximizing the chances of conversion.

There’s some similarities in comparing SEO vs PPC in this way. You need to still make sure the page you’re displaying to the audience makes sense for them. 

If you’re promoting a sale on homemade NFL candles and the user clicks the ad and sees something else; you just paid for someone to click onto your website and then click away. 

Keyword Research

Just like with SEO, keyword research is an important part of PPC. The keywords you choose to display your ad for will determine the audience you get and how much you pay for each visitor. 

cost per click

If you look inside the red box, this is the average cost per click. So, each time someone clicks on your ad it’ll cost around $1.10. 

The cost will fluctuate based on the intent. Generally, searches like this that are transaction-based will cost more than info-related searches. 

The goal is to figure out how much it costs to acquire a customer vs how much they spend. If the amount they spend is higher than you can scale your advertisements and successfully make money using that ad. 


As far as Google choosing “who” to display for a keyword, that depends on your bid. You’ll participate in auctions to determine the cost of displaying your ads when specific keywords are searched. Effective bidding strategies involve finding the right balance between your budget and the competitiveness of your chosen keywords.

You don’t want to keep increasing your cost-per-click just to command the top position because it’ll cut into your profits. 

This is something that requires a certain level of skill and experience but you can test out various bids to see what works. Keep in mind, you don’t always need to be the top ad to have a profitable campaign. 

A/B Testing

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the art of refining PPC campaigns through experimentation. PPC experts are always looking for ways to improve ad copy, landing page design, and overall campaign performance. A/B testing involves creating multiple variations of ads or landing pages and comparing their performance to determine which elements resonate most with your target audience.

You can test headlines, descriptions, landing pages, buttons, and so on. Google Ads allows you to do this using the platform so it shortens the learning curve a bit. 

Pros and Cons of SEO

Here are the positives and negatives of SEO:

Pro 1 – SEO drives longevity

traffic growth

The work you put in now will benefit you forever. You can see that initial SEO efforts in 2021 continued to provide level traffic through years of inactivity in this example. 

Pro 2 – SEO is more affordable upfront 

Going back to the custom football jersey example; you have to pay $1.10 for every visitor you get. So if your site has 5,000 organic visitors per month, to get the equivalent of that with PPC it would cost over $5,000. 

Con 1 – SEO takes time

It takes a long time to rank content on Google and the competitiveness of your niche can only make it worse. 

Con 2 – SEO requires industry expertise

SEO is getting more challenging for people who don’t actually understand the subject and are simply chasing dollars. With PPC, you can use advertising skills to drive traffic to a page and Google doesn’t care as long as the page is relevant.  

Pros and Cons of PPC

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of PPC:

Pro 1 – Quick gains

If you know what you’re doing you can start a PPC campaign today and start making money right away. This is super tempting to people with a budget. 

Pro 2 – In-depth targeting

PPC allows you to target based on incredibly refined metrics like demographics, location, age, and more. 

Con 1 – The cost can put you out of business

cost per click for ppc

It can cost you $10, 20, 30, 40, and 50 dollars just for one click for super competitive keywords. 

Con 2 – Requires constant attention

While there’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” solution in digital marketing, I find PPC to be more needy than SEO. 

SEO vs PPC: Putting it Together

So, in this comparison of SEO vs PPC, which is better? The answer is both. 

You should use both of these strategies together because they both work and do so in different ways. 

If you have the budget for it, I recommend running PPC ads to promote your content early on while you’re waiting for it to rank. 

You can also do competitor research using Ahrefs to see what keywords your competitors are bidding on and go for those. Find the most affordable keywords that you can bid on to make some money to fund long-term SEO goals. 

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